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Idalia Prompts Amateur Radio Activations


Updated 7:00 a.m. August 30, 2023:

Hurricane Idalia was upgraded to category 4 in the early morning hours of Wednesday, with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour. As of 7:00 a.m. the storm has been downgraded slightly to category 3. Winds are sustained at 120 miles per hour.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved an ARRL-requested emergency waiver to HF symbol rate limits, to allow higher speed data communications in the Amateur Radio Service response to Hurricane Idalia.

Read the waiver (PDF)

The storm is beginning to make landfall on Florida's Big Bend Region along the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, says it is an 'all hands on deck' situation. "While Idalia will make landfall in an area that is extremely sparsely populated, that area will see record storm surge. In addition to storm surge will be the fact that this will be a very fast-moving Hurricane and will affect many cities," he said. 

The hurricane is expected to track across the Florida Panhandle, and impact portions of Southern Georgia and South Carolina - of particular note to Graves. "I have been watching and plotting Hurricanes for over 35 years. I have witnessed, many times, a Hurricane cross a state line into another as a hurricane…two States were hit by the same Hurricane. Never have I seen a storm cross three States as a Hurricane. That is about to change as Idalia is expected to hit three States as a Hurricane…two States will be hit as a Major Hurricane," he said. 

Update Noon EDT August 29, 2023:

Volunteers of ARRL  The National Association for Amateur Radio® are activating ahead of Hurricane Idalia. The storm, which was upgraded to a hurricane on Tuesday, August 29 was in the Gulf of Mexico. Models agreed that it could make landfall on the Florida Gulf Coast as a category 3 hurricane on Wednesday, August 30.

In a planning call Monday night with leadership of ARRL Florida sections and ARRL Headquarters staff, Section Emergency Coordinator of the ARRL Northern Florida Section Arc Thames, W4CPD, shared plans for activation of Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) volunteers within the section. “Beginning at 7:00 a.m. local time on Tuesday, August 28, ARES volunteers will begin to staff AUXCOMM positions at the State EOC,” he said.

The Florida Statewide Amateur Radio Network (SARnet) is the primary emergency communications system planned for use. The system is a series of linked UHF repeaters that covers the entire state. There are also HF nets planned as a backup.

Radio amateurs are asked to yield HF frequencies to emergency nets when they are activated.

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) was activated Monday afternoon. HWN activated on 14.325 MHz at 2:00 PM EDT (1800 UTC) and planned to remain active until 11:00 PM EDT (0300 UTC) or until propagation was lost. HWN then planned to activate on 7.268MHz at 7:00 PM EDT (2300 UTC) and remain active until 11:00 PM EDT (0300 UTC).

HWN Activation Plans for Tuesday, August 29 through Wednesday, August 30:

  • 20-meters: 14.325.00 MHz at 8:00 AM EDT (1200 UTC) daily until propagation is lost at night.
  • 40-meters: 7.268.00 MHz starting at 7:00 PM EDT (2300 UTC) Tuesday. HWN will remain active on this frequency throughout the remainder of this event.

“We will suspend operations each morning at 7:30 AM ET to allow the Waterway Radio and Cruising Club Net – WRCC (Waterway Net) to conduct their daily morning Net. After the Water Way Net has concluded, generally around 8:30 AM ET, we will resume operations,” wrote net manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV.

The WX4NHC amateur radio station at the National Hurricane Center also activated Monday, and plans to be active Tuesday and Wednesday as the storm continues towards Florida.

WX4NHC is active on the HWN frequencies but will also utilize the VoIP Hurricane Net.  (IRLP node 9219 / EchoLink WX-TALK Conference node 7203). The station is monitoring WinLink reports sent to (subject line must contain //WL2K).

WX4NHC asks that radio amateurs please relay any surface reports (weather data, flooding, damage) to them by one of the nets or an online hurricane report form. (Link:

The Hurricane VoIP Net plans to activate on Tuesday. “In addition to reports meeting Skywarn criteria, the operators, using Echolink WXTalk conference server 7203 and Internet Relay Protocol 9219, will be joined to the Kansas Sunflower Network offering Hamshack Hotline 94032, Echolink KC5FM-r, Allstar 28848, and other modes such as Dstar, Fusion, M17, and P25,” wrote Lloyd Colston, KC5FM, Public Information Officer for the VoIP net.

ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, and the ARES headquarters staff are staying in frequent touch with members of the ARRL Northern Florida Section. Section Manager of the ARRL Southern Florida Section, Barry Porter, KB1PA, sent a message to the hams in the lower part of the Sunshine State. “Much of the northern part of our state will be facing impacts from Idalia, which could be a Category 3 or higher storm. In other words, they might be the victims. Since the southern part of Florida will not see much severe impact, we should be ready to assist with backup communications and welfare messages, if asked,” he wrote.

ARRL will provide updates to the situation as it develops. Members in Florida are encouraged to monitor local emergency officials and prepare to take action to keep themselves safe as the storm moves toward them. See the Hurricane Preparedness Checklist (PDF) from American Red Cross.

About Amateur Radio and ARRL 

Amateur Radio Service licensees use their training, skills, and equipment to practice radio communications and develop radio technology. Amateur Radio Operators volunteer their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in public service and during emergencies. Amateur Radio also provides a basis for hands-on STEM education and pathways to careers. 

ARRL  The National Association for Amateur Radio® was founded in 1914 as The American Radio Relay League, and is a noncommercial organization of Radio Amateurs. ARRL numbers within its ranks the vast majority of active Radio Amateurs (or “hams”) in the US and has a proud history of achievement as the standard-bearer in promoting and protecting Amateur Radio. For more information about ARRL and Amateur Radio, visit

About ARES® 

Amateur Radio Operators, or “hams,” have a long history of serving their communities when storms or other disasters damage critical communication infrastructure, such as cell phone towers and fiber optic networks. Amateur radio functions completely independently of the internet and phone systems, and a ham radio station can be set up almost anywhere in minutes. Amateurs can quickly raise a wire antenna in a tree or on a mast, connect it to a radio and power source, and communicate effectively with others. 

The ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES® consists of hams who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment with their local ARES leadership for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. They use their training, skills, and equipment to prepare for and provide communications during emergencies When All Else Fails®.



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